Today's Papers

Passover Massacre

All the papers lead with news of the suicide bombing by a Palestinian in the Israeli coastal resort town of Netanya. The bomber, estimated to be carrying 40 pounds of explosives, walked into a diner where a Passover seder was getting underway and, when shouted at minutes later, triggered the bomb. At least 19 people were killed, and more than 120 people were injured. Hamas is claiming responsibility.

How likely is it that the bombing will forever be known as the “Passover Massacre”? Only USA Today boldfaces the phrase (in its subhead). The Los Angeles Times uses the phrase without quotes 26paragraphs into the story, while the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal put it almost all the way up, in the 2nd paragraph, as a description of the day’s big news by Israeli spokesperson Gideon Meir. The papers who don’t use Meir, alternatively, go with this quote, by Israeli Public Security Minister Uzi Landau, who is calling for Israeli retaliation: “This is not just terror. This is a massacre.”

The Washington Post goes furthest in getting details in about the bomber, a mid-20s Palestinian named Abdel Basset Odeh, who once worked for hotels in Netanya. The WP, citing an Israeli newspaper quoting Palestinian sources, relays a point about the situation that might be worth watching for reaction: Israel had sent several warnings to Palestinian security forces beforehand about Odeh.

The NYT has its own Israeli media citation scoop (although judging by its placement at the 2nd paragraph from the bottom, it doesn’t believe it). Israeli radio reports that U.S. special envoy Anthony C. Zinni’s mission is “at an end.”

The NYT draws particular emphasis to the fact that the timing of the attack coincided with the start of the Arab Summit in Beirut. At the gathering, the Saudis offered a peace proposal that the NYT describes in its news analysis as an “extraordinary appeal directed largely to the Israeli people.” The LAT judges that this was “overshadowed” by another drama at the same event, when Lebanon blocked Arafat’s attempt to address the conference live via teleconference, prompting the Palestinians to walk out and the Palestinian leader to make his address on Al Jazeera.

The WP and the NYT front the signing of the campaign finance bill by President Bush. The two papers delight in the irony that after signing the legislation, Bush then embarked on a fund-raising trip in South Carolina. The WSJ prefers to focus its post-signing action on the lawsuits now at hand. Back to the WP and NYT, both note Sen. John McCain’s absence at the signing ceremony, although the Times makes it a parenthetical notation while the Post cites McCain aides who say the apparent Bush snub might “set back a gradual warming in relations between the two men.”

North Carolina might have gotten a House seat meant for Utah, says the WSJ. The paper writes that the Supreme Court in sessions yesterday voiced concern over the Census Bureau’s “imputation” method, a technique whereby census officials can “estimate the makeup of a household that fails to respond to census questionnaires or follow-up interviews by assigning it the characteristics of its nearest neighbor.” The issue will hinge on the difference between “imputation” vs. “sampling,” which the court had struck down three years ago.

The death of 93-year-old comedian Milton Berle trumps the death of 66-year-old actor Dudley Moore.  Berle gets two fronts (LAT and WP) and three reefers to Moore’s zero and five.

The WP fronts an update on the Afghanistan earthquake, now said to have killed 700 people, not 1,800 as previously reported. USAT downgrades the casualty number to 800.

The papers stuff news that U.S. officials are warning U.S. citizens in the Italian cities of Venice, Florence, Milan, and Verona that they may be targeted by terrorists on Easter Sunday. U.S. officials apparently were tipped off by Italian investigators. An Italian official is now downplaying what the U.S. says is a “credible” report, saying, “there’s zero confirmation about this possibility.”

USAT’s front teases a story in the business section about an “uproar” over the departure of Wall Street Week’s Louis Rukeyser. The story, however, reads more like a lesson on how tranquil the lives of those who work for PBS really are. One PBS station manager who carried the program reports a “deluge” of a dozen calls and 60-70 e-mails; another compares the controversy to the New Coke-Classic Coke debate. A PBS executive at the end puts it in perspective, saying if “a station even moves the Nightly Business Report by a half-hour, viewers ‘take the roof off.’ “

Good News, Sort Of: The WP fronts news that pharmaceutical company Aventis has found 70 to 90 million doses of smallpox vaccine. This discovery increases the known U.S. inventory six-fold. Should a smallpox bioterror attack occur right now, the WP writes, the U.S. will be able to handle it. Intriguingly, Aventis doesn’t seem to be trumpeting their good fortune to the Post.